January 2017 Whole Woman Newsletter

Contents (Click the link to jump to the relevant section)

Goodbye 2016…

I'm finally rested from the holidays, which were filled with love and laughter.

We had an open house at the Whole Woman Center, and it was great to see friends, new and old. But on New Year's Day, the tree came down, I put ornaments and lights away, and the new year got under way.

Lanny and I escaped to Santa Fe for a couple of days between Christmas and New Years to celebrate our 30th anniversary, which was wonderful, but we were both so glad to be home!

The 6th Annual Whole Woman Conference

The Early Bird pricing for the Whole Woman Conference, August 11-13th was supposed to end on January 1st, but with the holidays and all they entail in time and expense, we decided to extend the Early Bird pricing until February 1st.

So get out your calendar and mark off the dates and start planning your trip. The Hotel Andaluz has set aside a block of rooms for our guests at a very attractive rate, but when that block is gone, the standard rates may apply.

If hands-on support with your posture, exercises, anatomical understanding would be valuable to you in gaining control of your prolapse, urinary incontinence, and chronic hip pain, then you need to attend the conference.

Sharing the conference with a female friend or family member will enrich the experience for both of you and save you money as well. Visit the Whole Woman Store for more information.

Whole Woman Practitioner Training

The new class of Whole Woman Practitioners has come together and it's a great group of women. You'll get to meet them at the conference.

The need is tremendous. I am always thrilled and inspired by the women who see the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the women in their communities by providing the Whole Woman work.

So many hundreds of thousands of women, still trusting their doctors and the medical system, are being talked into hysterectomies and so-called surgical "repairs" for prolapse, incontinence, and hip pain.

And doctors, trapped in the pharmaceutical/industrial/medical complex, continue to deliver the traditional treatments, knowing full well the lifetime of suffering they will be creating for their patients. This phenomenon is the focus of this month's newsletter.

Cognitive Dissonance

There is an interesting and puzzling psychological process at work in all of us, which history may well characterize as the defining feature of our times.

That process is cognitive dissonance, identified and explained by social psychologist Leon Festinger in the 1950s.

Cognitive dissonance may be a fancy term, but it describes a very powerful and common phenomenon.

The process is this. We all live in a reality construct. By that I mean a system of beliefs and assumptions about we believe to be real. This may seem like a strange idea. After all, reality is what's real, isn't it?

Actually, "reality" isn't all it's cracked up to be. Ask any physicist and he or she will remind you that at least 99.99% of matter is empty space. But somehow, we convince ourselves that the table we just banged our shin against is solid and real.

So, by definition, "reality" is a construct fabricated by our physical data gathering and internal mental processes.

But when we are confronted with new information that contradicts our existing reality construct, we find ourselves experiencing tension and discomfort.

This discomfort is what is meant by the term cognitive dissonance.

What happens next is what's interesting.

We strive to resolve this tension between our comfortable reality construct and this new information by fabricating an altogether different construct in which that new idea or information is no longer causing tension.

When looked at objectively, many times the new reality construct we create is an absurdly gerrymandered version of "reality" necessary to somehow get the conflicting dimensions of our realities to resolve.

Let's look at some examples.

Cigarettes. Once the data became clear that smoking tobacco causes cancer, although common sense would suggest that repeatedly inhaling hot, toxic gasses would probably not be such a great idea, a rational person would think that the tobacco companies would start looking for a different business to be in.

If one assumes that people generally want to do the right thing and provide useful services to their fellow human beings, then the next moves of the tobacco industry are puzzling.

Instead of looking for a new business to get into, the tobacco industry spent hundreds of millions of dollars creating ambiguity and uncertainty about the health research in order to protect their existing business and keeping people from quitting smoking.

So either these are evil, uncaring people, or there is some other dynamic going on. Given the amount of money involved in the industry, not to mention the long standing culture of tobacco growing, manufacturing and distribution, it isn't surprising that so many people both producers and consumers of tobacco, managed to reconfigure their reality constructs in order to make it OK to continue to produce or consume tobacco.

I find it fascinating that a one minute commercial for a prescription drug routinely includes about 15 seconds of pitch for the drug and usually 45 seconds of risks associated with taking the drug. These risks often include a grim litany of horrific effects, up to and often including death.

Ad agencies have very sophisticated methods for tracking the effectiveness of their commercials, which are very expensive to produce and even more expensive to run on prime time TV. Drug companies continue to produce these commercials only because they really work and sell drugs. Lots of drugs.

The commercials are so effective that the American Medical Association is lobbying to restrict drug company commercials because some patients are becoming so convinced they want a specific drug, they refuse to listen to their doctor's advice to the contrary, a situation doctors do not like at all.

So clearly, most viewers of these commercials selectively absorb the information. They enthusiastically embrace the information that suggests how the drug may benefit them, while selectively filtering out the information about the harm they may suffer from taking the drug.

So it is with doctors. Doctors invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in their education. Every spot in medical school, internship, and residency is hotly competed for by smart, capable, and highly motivated men and women.

Those student loans must be repaid and once the money starts coming in through their practice, the "standards of care" that are in place in the medical system, become a convenient crutch for continuing to perform dangerous, inappropriate, and unneeded procedures.

Additionally, peer pressure, pressure from drug reps who closely track what drugs doctors are prescribing, hospitals and surgical centers who track doctors' utilization of their facilities, all make it easy for doctors to justify performing procedures that are not in their patients' best interests.

Of course, in any large group of humanity, there will be a small portion of venal, toxic, and uncaring people. But they are always the minority. And yes, there are always a few saints at the other end of the spectrum, but most of us fall somewhere between those extremes.

What all this suggests is that in spite of the fact we tend to scrutinize and judge the behavior of individuals, we should be stepping back and asking the question, "What is it about the system in which these people work that gives rise to this undesirable behavior?" Because it is the system itself that is deforming the reality constructs of the participants within the system.

In the case of medicine, the system itself is deeply corrupt and dysfunctional, driven by drug and surgical supply companies for their own financial interests, and in which the suffering of women is merely collateral damage.

In last month's newsletter, we talked about the fossil fuel companies putting the future of humanity at risk in order to keep pumping oil, fracking for natural gas, or mining coal. Cognitive dissonance is the only explanation for this self-destructive behavior.

Recent political events have raised awareness of the process by which tyrants gain power.

One dimension of this process is clearly cognitive dissonance, where people convince themselves that behavior they would never tolerate in their children or friends is somehow justifiable in their leaders for the "common good". Many voters support candidates in spite of overwhelming data that supporting a particular political position or leader is not in their own best interests.

These are symptoms of cognitive dissonance at work.

What is the antidote to this powerful psychological process?

First is awareness of the process. When we are aware that what we call "reality" is, in fact, a construct we have fabricated to make sense of life, then we become more aware of how malleable that reality is.

We become more aware of how advertisers, for example, often skillfully manipulate our reality so we become convinced we cannot live without this or that product or service. With awareness, we begin to understand how cultural, social, and family pressures shift and change our reality constructs.

This understanding allows us to be more intentional about how we shape our reality constructs. For example, verifiable facts tend to become more important when others are trying to influence or persuade us. This doesn't preclude our accepting something on faith, but it requires us to be intentional about taking that leap of faith.

Human beings are social creatures. As a result, we are often powerfully influenced by social pressures so we don't lose our connection with our social community. Like most things, this dynamic is both an asset and liability. It helps create and sustain community, but it can also lead us like lemmings to subscribe to a belief system that will lead us off a cliff when we should be swimming against the current of belief dominant in our community.

Second, it is important to recognize the reality shaping pressures on others who in turn want us to assimilate the reality to which they have subscribed. For example, the old adage, "follow the money" is often a useful guide to understand what may be motivating the person you are interacting with, for example the doctor who is suggesting that surgery is the only viable solution to your problem.

Third is learning to live with the tension created by conflicting ideas and information. While the propensity to resolve the tension or dissonance caused by conflicting information or ideas may be a natural one, that doesn't mean we have to succumb to it. Letting the tension simmer without trying to resolve it may produce surprising insights. We may discover unconscious biases of which we weren't aware. We may discover we have long held beliefs challenged by new information that need to expand, evolve, or be abandoned.

I see this frequently with the women I work with, and some of the women on the Whole Woman forum. The unquestioning belief in the medical system is deeply embedded in our culture. Many women have a hard time letting go of that belief even when confronted with an avalanche of hard facts.

This is one of the reasons I have worked to hard in my books to thoroughly document every assertion. The power of facts is that they force us to revisit beliefs and assumptions.

It is a reasonable policy to be skeptical of those who make assertions and who cannot or will not back up their assertions with facts, or who play fast and loose with facts and try to present assertions as facts without any evidence to support those assertions.

The whole process of science is starting with a hypothesis (in other words a belief) then supporting or knocking down that hypothesis with measurable evidence that can be verified independently by others. The hardest part of science even for scientists is when their deeply held beliefs are undermined by newly created facts provided by our increasing ability to accurately measure the physical world around us.

To paraphrase philosopher Thomas Kuhn in his landmark book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, "In every generation of scientists, there will be those who go to their graves firmly espousing and scientific reality that has been thoroughly disproved."

Breaking the stranglehold of medicine in our culture requires an understanding that this monopoly was created and constructed very intentionally by those who stood to gain enormous power and wealth from its existence, primarily the drug producers.

While the medical system generally is populated by smart, capable, and caring people, the system in which they work is all about the money. As the CEO of a major drug company was recently quoted in the news, "We are not in the business of healing the sick. We're in the business of returning a profit to our shareholders."

Sometimes our belief systems are upended though the shock of a personally tragic event. Anti-hysterectomy crusader Nora Coffey's story is a great example. Deciding at the last minute to listen to her intuition about not going forward with the surgery, her pleas were ignored by the hospital staff, she was anesthetized, and her uterus taken against her wishes.

In other cases, people like Nora and myself, who have been abused by the system and have worked to turn our personal tragedy to some benefit for our sisters, we chip away at ingrained beliefs with facts and personal verification. A doctor's claim that surgery is the only answer becomes much less compelling when through your own efforts, you are stabilizing and reversing your symptoms.

In many respects, the most difficult aspect of understanding cognitive dissonance is the notion that "reality" isn't real. Once you have absorbed that understanding, what is "true" becomes a lot less important that what is useful. What is true at one point in time (e.g. the world is flat) may not be true tomorrow as new facts come to light.

In fact, a dogmatic subscription to a "truth" often blinds us to new information, insights, or facts. If we are to grow and evolve as human beings, binding ourselves to any immutable "truth" freezes us, creates blinders on our ability to see, learn, and grow.

Our very lives, our health, and even our freedom depend on our ability to be aware of the process of cognitive dissonance, and how to manage and evolve our reality constructs.

Thank you for staying with me through this thought. Understanding this concept is central to your success with the Whole Woman work.

Enjoy your winter, be it hot or cold.

Best wishes,

Christine Kent
Founder, Whole Woman